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Health strategies to strengthen communities

Health strategies can improve community-level health outcomes, create safer neighborhoods, and eliminate harmful environmental contaminants.

Supportive, healthy communities strengthen family stability, foster strong social networks, and generate access to opportunity, all of which contribute to positive mobility outcomes at every life stage.

How do health issues impact neighborhoods?

Economically and racially integrated neighborhoods have more local healthcare providers. 1

Predominantly Black and low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have shortages of primary care providers, fewer hospitals, more limited access to physicians, and a lower supply of surgeons.

Communities with good environmental quality see better health outcomes. 2

Air pollution contributes to asthma and other respiratory diseases, which increase hospital admissions and lost working days. Water and soil contamination can contribute to higher rates of infant mortality, hamper children’s neurological development, and cause poor health outcomes in adults

Children raised neighborhoods with good environmental quality see better long-term outcomes. 3

Children born in areas with high levels of air and industrial pollution are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to develop cognitive disabilities, work in low wage jobs, and receive public assistance.

Safe, high-quality housing improves community health. 4

Lead contamination, insufficient home insulation, the absence of hot water, pest infestation, mold, inadequate ventilation, and other environmental factors in homes are associated with greater incidences of infectious diseases, chronic illnesses, injuries, poor nutrition, mental disorders, and cognitive development issues.

Neighborhoods with access to fresh and healthy grocery options see better health outcomes 5

Neighborhoods without access to fresh and healthy grocery options (food deserts) are associated with poor health outcomes for adults and contribute to higher rates of obesity among preschool-aged children.

Access to parks and green spaces improves community health. 6

Residential proximity to neighborhood parks and green spaces is correlated with better physical health, mental health, and general well-being. Individuals have less mental distress, anxiety, depression, and unhealthy cortisol levels when living in areas with access to green space.

Categories of successful interventions

  • Community health programs: Medical services or health-related programs based in underserved neighborhoods
  • Environmental remediation programs: Initiatives that remove pollution or contaminants from soil, water, or sediment
  • Parks and green space: Initiatives that seek to improve the quality of and access to parks and public spaces

Evidence-based interventions

Intervention Type Category Evidence Level ARP Eligibility
Alcohol outlet density restrictions Policy
  • Community health programs
  • Substance use prevention programs
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Bike and pedestrian master plans Policy
  • Built environment improvements
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Community fitness programs Strategy
  • Community health programs
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Community gardens Strategy
  • Built environment improvements
  • Community health programs
  • Nutrition programs
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Community health workers Strategy
  • Community health programs
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Community-based social support for physical activity Strategy
  • Community health programs
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Competitive pricing for healthy foods Policy
  • Health-related financial incentives
  • Nutrition programs
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Complete streets and streetscape design initiatives Policy
  • Built environment improvements
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Farmers markets Strategy
  • Community health programs
  • Nutrition programs
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Federally-qualified health centers Strategy
  • Community health programs
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Financial incentives for preventative care Strategy
  • Health-related financial incentives
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Fruit and vegetable incentive programs Strategy
  • Health-related financial incentives
  • Nutrition programs
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Green space and parks Policy
  • Built environment improvements
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Health insurance enrollment outreach and support Strategy
  • Health systems navigation assistance
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Health literacy interventions Strategy
  • Community health programs
  • Health systems navigation assistance
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Medical homes Strategy
  • Direct health interventions
  • Health systems navigation assistance
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Medical-legal partnerships Strategy
  • Health systems navigation assistance
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Mobile health for mental health Strategy
  • Community health programs
  • Direct health interventions
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Mobile reproductive health clinics Strategy
  • Community health programs
  • Direct health interventions
Strong (second-highest tier) Yes
Places for physical activity Policy
  • Built environment improvements
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Professionally trained medical interpreters Strategy
  • Health systems navigation assistance
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Safe Routes to School Strategy
  • Child wellness programs
  • Neighborhood safety strategies
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Syringe services programs Strategy
  • Community health programs
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Traffic calming Strategy
  • Neighborhood safety strategies
Proven (highest tier) Yes
Footnotes
  1. Arcaya and Schnake-Mahl, "Health in the Segregated City," Furman Center 2017
    https://furmancenter.org/research/iri/essay/health-in-the-segregated-city
  2. Krause and Reeves, "Earth Day: It Is About Equity As Well As The Environment," Brookings 2018
    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2018/04/21/earth-day-it-is-about-equity-as-well-as-the-environment/
  3. Persico, "Can Pollution Cause Poverty: The Effects of Pollution on Educational, Health, and Economic Outcomes," Institute of Labor Economics, 2020
    https://www.iza.org/publications/dp/12965/can-pollution-cause-poverty-the-effects-of-pollution-on-educational-health-and-economic-outcomes
  4. Krieger and Higgins, "Housing and Health: Time Again for Public Health Action," American Journal of Public Health 2002
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447157/
  5. Chinni, "The Socio-Economic Significance of Food Deserts," PBS News 2011
    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/the-socio-economic-significance-of-food-deserts
  6. Sturm and Cohen, "Proximity to Urban Parks and Mental Health," Journal of Mental Health Policy Economics 2014
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049158/pdf/nihms575433.pdf